The Promises of Marriage

January 8, 2010 § 23 Comments

This is my response to Jamey Stegmaier’s thoughts on marriage found below.

Marriage is difficult. I’d argue with anyone who told me otherwise. It’s a give and take of wants. A constant juggling of priorities. My husband, we’ll call him Harrison, and I have been married for 7 years and have 3 beautiful children (yes, they’ve been a productive 7 years).

Have we fallen out of love? Absolutely. It took a great deal of time and work to get where we are today. I look forward to sharing more of our story on another day. First I’d like to address Jamey’s questions since he’s been so kind to write for my blog.

Friendships.  This is an understandable concern. In Harrison’s and my situation, we moved to a new state as newlyweds. We had to start over in the friend department and met other married couples in our same stage of life. As we had children, our friends had children. Our friendships remained intact from those bonding experiences.

With the exception of a select few, I’ll admit, we rarely see or talk to the friends we had before marriage. I doubt it has anything to do with actually getting married, but from our move away from them.

Harrison has a group of guys that he connects with and I have my group of girls. Do we try to do something with the guys and girls every week? No, that’s not a likely scenario. It isn’t feasible from our side, nor our friend’s. There’s no way our schedules could allow such a thing.

Kids. I must like them to have 3. Having children changes everything. I’m not going to lie, Jamey’s fear is absolutely justified on how it will affect his relationship with his future wife. This is where Harrison and I fell out of love. I put the children’s needs before everything else and we slipped into the common role of roommates instead of husband and wife. A great deal of it was ignorance on my part, but we worked on it, and are a stronger couple as a result. I wouldn’t trade that time of difficulty for anything.

I think the best thing about parenting is that nobody is perfect at it. Everybody makes mistakes. We handled our first child with a combined measure of love and fear. It’s an overwhelming thing, comparable to nothing I’ve ever experienced. Do I wish I had more time for other things? Yes. Do I regret having children? Absolutely not.

Making the Wrong Choice.  I don’t have a good answer for this. I knew that Harrison was a good man and that I loved him. I thought he’d be a good father. What I didn’t anticipate was not being “in love” with him. I think it’s a common thing if couples don’t actively work to spend time together. We weren’t working on us. When we are, when I put him first and he puts me first, it’s a beautiful thing. Are we always like that? No. Putting each other first is what we strive for. We’re imperfect people in an imperfect world and we will fail each other. Forgiveness is crucial. Communication is huge. Even when we’re mad at each other, the thought of leaving him rips me in two. We really are one flesh, one unit, working together.

At the risk of sounding pretentious and unoriginal, I’d like to quote C.S. Lewis because he says this better than I ever would:

            “The idea that ‘being in love’ is the only reason for remaining married really leaves no room for marriage as a contract or promise at all….What we call ‘being in love’ is a glorious state, and, in several ways, good for us. It helps to make us generous and courageous, it opens our eyes not only to the beauty of the beloved but to all beauty, and it’s subordinates…People say, the state of ‘being in love’ usually does not last…But, of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense—love as distinct from ‘being in love’– is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit. ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.”

Marriage is contract to love each other. It was that covenant that kept Harrison and I together. We hadn’t kept our promise. We’d stopped loving each other. I’m positive we’ll have problems in the future, but it’s the promise to each other that keeps us here and it’s definitely worth it.

§ 23 Responses to The Promises of Marriage

  • Simon L. says:

    No one who quotes C.S. Lewis will ever sound pretentious (at least in my book). Lovely post, good lady.

    My wife and I have had difficulties, sure, but it’s the fact that we both take our promise to one another seriously that kept us together, when we might otherwise have walked away.

    Yes, it’s work. When kids come along it’s even more work (I have three too). It’s still worth it.

  • sara says:

    Oh yeah. Marriage definitely isn’t always hearts and cupcakes and balloons!

    “Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.” <<— My mom explained this to me ages ago, using this exact quote. It's a beautiful and (honest) way at looking at the often cyclical nature of love.

  • harleymay says:

    Simon and Sara,
    Truly, the promise is for the action of love, not the feeling. I’m glad you both agree it’s not an easy thing but worth fighting for. I love how C.S. Lewis weaves words together. I want to be just like him when I grow up. Thanks for sharing your own personal experiences. It’s good to know that we all struggle.

  • Your follow up to my blog post is amazing, Harley. I like how the backbone of what you write about is about being in love–and falling out of love. It’s a vulnerable thing to admit to, and a truly wonderful concept that you can fall in love, fall out of love, and actually fall back into love. That, in itself, gives me faith in marriage. I guess I just need to have both types of love for a while to know that at least one of them will be there to anchor my marriage despite the seas of change and growth.

    • harleymay says:

      “Is love a fancy or a feeling?” ~ Jane Austen. Your heart seem open to all kinds of love, Jamey. I have no doubt that it will find you when you’re ready for it. The fact that mention “anchor” brings another thought to light. We, as human beings, will fail. Our love is not perfect. God’s love is, and that’s what anchors my husband and I together. We are the ones who mess it up. How great it is to have forgiveness and compassion for without it, we’d most certainly be lost. Happy Birthday, Jamey.

  • Erica says:

    Very honest take on marriage. And totally spot on. I’ve been married for 7 years as well, no kids, yet… but I can relate to a lot of what was said in this post… Glad to hear we’re not alone. I appreciate your honesty and sincerity!

    Great post :o) See ya on twitter!

  • Sarah says:

    Harley – beautiful, honest post that I think is very helpful to those of us still single and figuring out this marriage thing. And I too am a fan of C. S. Lewis. 🙂

    • harleymay says:

      Sarah, I hope I didn’t paint too dark a picture of marriage, because I love being a wife and having a husband I can call my own. Thank you for your words and it’s always nice finding another Lewis fan.

  • Don P says:

    Chicago sang it best…

    The pain and joy
    Of an unrelenting love
    Hold us together

    I’m forever amazed by the truth you can sometimes find in cheesy 80s songs. But looking back on what’s coming up on 5 years, this is exactly how it’s been.

  • Anne Riley says:

    Harley – this is a wonderful post.

    I am always creeped out by the 1950s. (This will make sense in a minute. Hang on.) In talking to my mom especially, it seems that the 50’s were a decade of facades – no one talked about their problems, women were expected to put everyone before themselves, and if anyone suffered any kind of public scandal, they were immediately labeled social outcasts.

    What I love about my friendships these days – and society in general – is that we can call each other up and say, “Hey, my life is really, really crappy right now. I sort of want to get in my car and drive to Nebraska and change my name and maybe fake my own death so that no one will try to find me.” And our friend will say, “I know. Me too. Come over and let’s drink and cry.”

    (Coincidentally, this is also what I love about reformed Christianity.)

    So, all that to say (here’s my actual point): It’s so refreshing that people have begun to tell each other what their lives are actually like. NO ONE has a perfect marriage. EVERYONE makes enormous mistakes and goes through really tough periods with their spouse. But, you’re right: It can make you stronger than ever when you come out of it.

    Thanks again for posting. Love you!

    • harleymay says:

      “I know. Me too. Come over and let’s drink and cry.” This is why I love you. I’m so blessed to have you in my life, Annie. You cannot imagine how dismal my existance would be without you. 🙂 I love this about reformed theology, too! We’re all imperfect. How refreshing that we can be open about it now and not feel forced to play the perfect wife, mother, teacher, father, whatever. Thank you, Anne.

  • Stephanie says:

    You and Harrison sound a lot like The Husband and myself. We got married and moved two states away from our family and had to start all over. It was both good and bad for us. It was good in the sense that we didn’t have to worry about still having to spend time with family and friends and each other. There was no way we could spend time with our old family and friends save a few trips home throughout the year. We got to spend time with just each other (which can be good and bad. ha!). It was also a very hard time for us. We knew nobody and had to make friends all over again. Honestly the making new friends part was much harder than the being married part! I wouldn’t change being married or us moving for anything. It was (and still is) a wonderful time for us and taught us a lot about marriage and each other.

  • Christopher says:

    I come from a family which has managed to mangle almost every relationship it has entered into. My wife and I work hard at our marriage. It hasn’t turned out exactly the way we thought it would (no kids) but we have been married for 16 years.

    I wouldn’t change one day. The ups, the downs, it is all worth it. Every morning I know I get to wake up next to my best friend.

  • Eric Meyer says:

    I love to read honest writers who aren’t afraid to tell it like it is, to risk being exposed and to say what other, more timid souls feel at their core. Keep up the fine work Harley.
    PS. Harrison, eh? Harrison Ford has still got it going….

    • harleymay says:

      Thank you for commenting, Eric. Yes, Harley and Harrison are our names. Didn’t you know? I hope I didn’t paint marriage in too dismal of a light because I dearly love being married! I don’t think I expressed that point enough. I just wanted to relay that it’s not easy, but absolutely worth it.

  • Sarah says:

    Harley – no, you didn’t paint too dark a picture. 🙂 You painted a very real picture about true love — which has it’s mountain tops and its valleys. I mentioned it before, but I am in the midst of discerning marriage with a wonderful man. We’ve known each other for over 2 years, so I’ve seen his flaws and his gifts, and he has seen mine. This sometimes makes it feel less romantic… and at the same time more romantic… because if we do marry, we are really choosing each other for who the other is, not a fantasy. 🙂 But as my married twin points out… real love, with its ups and downs, can be a lot better than the fantasy.

  • […] on Harley May’s blog, where I recently had a guest post and she had a follow-up post, there has been a discussion about “the one.” So many people talked about “the […]

  • Masonian says:

    I’m smelling what you are stepping in.
    Me and wifey are working on 6 years and critter #2. It’s scary how things can change out from under you. Gotta be on it!

    Plus, C.S. Lewis rocks my face off.

    the mason

  • Clifton Hill says:

    Good post. It’s very true that there are challenges as a parent and spouse. That’s why I think it is very important to choose your spouse well. As my wife likes to point out they’re the only person in your entire family you get to choose. Then once you make that choice you need to stick with it. Divorce can’t be an option, because tough times will try all of us. The only way to get through them is to know that the other person will stick by you and that you’ll stick by them.

  • says:

    An outstanding share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a friend who had been conducting a little homework on this. And he in fact bought me breakfast due to the fact that I discovered it for him… lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending the time to talk about this subject here on your website.

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